War has always provided opportunities for significant change as a quick reading of the history of our planet will demonstrate. Under the massive stress and pressure of wars like the various conflicts in the Middle East, the structures of society and the political groupings that have held the country together begin to buckle and break and people begin to lose their bearings. It is then that they turn to the only things in their lives that seem stable and unchanging amid the chaos and link them to others who are in similar distress. These links are usually around religion, race, tribe or ethnic origin. .
This trend has always been present in human societies and probably always will be. We tend to be most comfortable with those people with whom we share deeply held views and customs. In times of war, these feelings are heightened as fault lines begin to emerge and disputes, grievances and long running feuds that have been held in check by times of relative peace rise to the surface. .
Prior to the first world war the world had been relatively stable for over a century – or so it had seemed. But often this outward appearance of stability is only an illusion as the world power balance alters, sometimes dramatically. By 1914 and the start of war the Austro-Hungarian Empire had collapsed and by 1918 the Ottoman Empire had suffered a similar fate. Great empires are always artificial creations containing many different nationalities and religions and held together by the power of their imperial rulers. Once the empire collapses a vacuum is created and new political alliances and new countries eventually emerge. Failure to deal with underlying issues at this time can create major problems down the track.
As examples, the first world war was followed by the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the State of Israel was created following the second world war. The history of both countries illustrates very clearly how the creation of national boundaries based on political horse trading and ignoring the wishes of the people involved can sow the seeds of future disaster.